By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


He half hoped she wouldn't be there, keeping their crazy date, but she was. As he climbed towards her, Will remembered their breathless kiss and knew that he didn't want it to be their last.

Before Will had even reached her, he was hoping against hope that she wouldn't turn up. As he toiled up the hill, he was angry with himself for all sorts of different reasons.

Firstly for having made the date in the first place. Secondly with having arranged to meet in such a stupid, impossible and ridiculous setting. Thirdly, and maybe most important of all, with himself for being here keeping the date.

"With a little luck," he wheezed to himself, "she won't have turned up either."

But she was there.

Leaning against a tree to catch his breath he could see ahead to the summit of the hill, grimly noticing the outline of her shadowy form seated on the lush grass waiting.

"She would be," he thought, half resentfully, half ruefully, "Well, what did I expect? Gave her the full works, didn't I? The full Riker treatment. The whole lot of the old irresistible personality in one go. Whang! Right between the eyes."

Poor Deanna, she never stood a chance.

He eased himself away from the tree and continued climbing. He'd be out of breath by the time he'd got to her. Whose idea had it been anyway to make a date on the top of a hill that they had once climbed together a long time ago on Betazed?

"Mine of course, you dumb mutt," he grudgingly admitted to himself, "I must have been as high as a kite at that party. The old personality boy himself. William T Riker rides again. Lock up your daughters, moms and dads! Will the thrill Riker is back in town."

He had to smile even though he'd felt like he'd left his legs behind a long time ago, but still managed to suffer the searing pain that coursed throughout his remaining parts.

"Why her? Why the one woman that you had dodged for the past fifteen years? Why the one woman that you had no hope of saying no to? Why Deanna Troi, you stupid idiot?"

But he knew he was fooling himself. He'd wanted Deanna Troi from day one, and now he was about to blow it. He had no idea what he was going to say to her, or what he was going to do. It had been a moment of intoxicated madness that he'd swung her into his arms and proceeded to show her some embarrassingly nifty moves on the dance floor. Too much champagne and too much ego had reduced him to an idiot, and she had gone along with it, willingly.

He'd remembered being floored by the gown she'd been wearing. And he had been bowled over by the look in her eyes as she had brazenly stared at him, willing him, wanting him to approach her. To make the first move. To take the first step outside of their normally happy safe neutral friendship.

And he had taken it, but not until he'd bolstered himself up with enough Dutch courage to sink an armada. He cringed as he remembered the way he hung over her, on her and around her. He cringed more as recalled he'd slurred every Riker seduction line that he'd possessed from the back of his over-used brain.

And she fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.

And now here he was, barely a few metres away from her, meeting her for a date that they'd made only seconds after a kiss that had sobered them both up instantly. A kiss that neither one would ever forget. A kiss that held a hint of something else. Something more. Something that had rocked their comfortable little universe more than it ever had before.

And now they were here, on top of the hill, about to undo the biggest mistake of their lives.

Weren't they?

Of course they were. Will had another girl. Okay, she was just a casual girl, a girl that like him, liked a good time when and where it suited them, and it hadn't suited her to be at a party for senior officers. So Will had gone alone.

A mistake.

A huge mistake.

And now he'd come up here to beg for forgiveness. To get things back to the way they were. To say goodbye to what could have been. That was what he wanted, he was sure of it. He was sure that that was what Deanna wanted too.

Wasn't it?

Of course it was.

He hadn't told Elaine about his conquest at the party. He didn't know why and he knew he should have. The Enterprise was a small ship so it wouldn't be long before she'd hear about his ridiculous behaviour. At least he could use the, 'I was as drunk as a skunk and didn't know what the hell I was doing.' routine.

Or he could use the 'It was just a kiss, for old times sake, it didn't mean anything, honest." He chuckled to himself. Hell, he still had it; that old Riker charm. But for the woman that had come to a stand as he approached, charm was the last thing on his mind. This was Deanna Troi he was about to spin a tale or two to. This was Deanna Troi, Betazoid. This was Deanna Troi, the one woman in the universe that he loved.

But it was supposed to be a secret. It was supposed to be something that only the two of them would know. It was supposed to be a love that would one day find its way home and stay for good. Not just a fleeting visit in a drunken moment of madness.

"What the hell am I doing here?" he unreasonably grumbled to himself. But deep inside he knew. It had been that kiss. The kiss that he had snatched almost at the end of the evening, alone in the darkened corner of the dance hall, where he had parked his butt against the wall before humiliating himself even further by falling into an ungainly heap upon the floor.

Deanna hadn't taken much urging to be pulled into his arms, and if he hadn't know better, Will could have sworn she really wanted to be there.

Hadn't she?

He wondered if she had gone to her quarters in the same kind of daze that he had. Being drunk had got nothing to do with the feelings that had invaded his mind. What he had felt last night had sobered him up quicker than an ice-cold bucket of water. What he had felt had invaded his soul and he was still feeling its presence; Like a sledgehammer had whupped him around the back of his still tender head.

He got his answer when he came to a halt a few feet in front of her, finally glad to catch his breath and regain his momentum. "This was a mistake. We shouldn't be here, Will, like this."

As Will stood and took in her features and the way her eyes suddenly pooled with moisture at the frank and totally unwanted admission, he was cast back to when they had first met and when they had first joined souls. Deanna was still the same, and still wanted the same kind of honesty and trust that had seen them through some of the toughest times of their personal lives.

Will threw honesty back at her, "Deanna, I didn't think you'd come. I honestly didn't think you would. I'm sorry."

What he was saying sorry for he wasn't quite sure. Was it for last night, or for leading her on. Or just simply being here, upsetting both of their worlds? Or was he sorry for what could happen? Whose fault was it for what could happen today.

He found himself quietly mumbling it again, "I'm sorry."

The silence grew as they simply stood and soaked up each others confusion, until at last, it was Deanna who turned away and sat back down upon the grass. Will watched as the wall went up around her, and he wondered if he had done the same. He hoped it hadn't, not yet anyhow.

This was a time for words. Words that could make or break their relationship. Her voice broke his thoughts.

"I've been up here a long time, just sitting, and thinking."

"Thinking? What about?"

"Us," she told him. "I mean, us being here at all. I really hoped you wouldn't come, Will."

It irritated Will to realise that she was thinking exactly the same as him. It irritated him too that she had had the courage to voice the words, "You don't really mean that, do you, Deanna?"

She turned her face towards him, and he had no doubts then that she did, even before she spoke, "I do." He watched her nervously tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, but it only high-lighted the determination in her steady gaze.

He retaliated angrily, before thinking, "Have you got any idea how much it took to come here? Have you got any idea of what this meeting could do to us, Deanna. Have you"

Will almost punched himself for asking such moronic questions. Of course she knew. She had gone through the same experience he had, and had came to the same conclusions.The end result would be the same for her as it would for he.

Would they come through the other end as lovers? As friends?

God, he hoped so.

The air was so heavy with tension, in the end they both laughed out aloud at the absurdity of the situation. Will threw himself down onto the grass beside her, picked up her hand and kissed its coolness.

"I'm sorry, Deanna, for being a pig-headed, chauvinistic fool who imagined that you'd be here, palpating as you wondered whether I would turn up and insist that we carried on right where we left off last night."

She chuckled knowingly at him, "Isn't it awful. I suppose that's why I came. I mean, I thought you'd be upset if I didn't show. I was surprised to see you."

Will was surprised, "You were?!" He laced his fingers with hers, "I thought you knew me better than that, Imzadi."

Everything came to a stand still as the couple found each others eyes and held fast, letting the intimate reminder of their past bring forth a rush of emotion that wasn't quite ready to acknowledge its existence,

"Don't say that word, Will, not yet, please."

"Why not?"

Deanna tried to tug her fingers out of his grip, but he held fast, knowing that the connection, albeit a small one, was needed at that moment to force home the attraction that, in all honesty, they were both trying to deny. But her answer, the honesty in them and the way they made his heart stop for an instant gave him his first glimmer of what could be,

"Because last night, Will, I fell in love with you all over again."

His voice turned husky at her implication, desperation laced his urgent words in his need to make her see and understand, "I felt it too, Deanna, don't you see that. Didn't you feel that last night, too?"

Deanna looked tormented as she continued to try and pull away from the steely grip that had moved from her fingers to her arm. "How can you feel that way about me, Will? I know you have a girlfriend."

He growled his displeasure at being reminded, "Elaine is 'not' my girlfriend, she is just someone I date once in a while. Come on, Deanna, don't throw invisible obstacles in the way of us."

"Why not? it seems we've had every kind of obstacle in our way from day one, and Elaine is 'not' an obstacle. She is a woman with feelings, Will, and at least deserves your fidelity if nothing else, and I do not want to be the one that becomes an issue between you two."

Will was stunned, "An issue?!" He had to make her see, understand, "Deanna, the issue between us is the fact that we are Imzadi, whether you like it or not. That is not going to go away and I'm not going to let it, ever."

The final word trailed off and along with it, his anger, and hers, "See, I told you it was a mistake us meeting here."

He couldn't stop the chuckle that arose from deep within him, "It was that kiss of ours that did it."

"I know," she said painfully, "But what now. What do we do?"

So there it was, the one big question, out in the open. They had both realised that a kiss like that had meant something far more than just the end of a night of flirtation.

But far worse than that, he realised, he desperately needed to kiss her again. "Oh, God, we're in real trouble, aren't we?"

Deanna nodded solemnly, "Yes, we are."

In the moments that followed, they both had a weird feeling of togetherness and loneliness.Their hearts ached with a sorrow that could be solved with one single act, but both were too frightened to play it out, knowing that afterwards, their lives would never, ever be the same again.

As the realisation of their actions washed over them, Will slipped a comforting arm around her and pulled her towards him. He kissed her cheek and she sniffed back the tears that threatened to fall and it was a long time before either one of them moved. The welcoming quiet that had followed their scared admission brought back a touch of sanity to the situation. A situation that they were not yet ready to deal with.

Not today.

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